Friday, January 31, 2014

5 for Friday Uganda Style

Good evening!  I write to you while sitting in my comfy PJs, having never taken them off all day.  That's because today was...Pajama Day!!

PJ Day has got to be one of the best perks of being a teacher.  That and summer vacation.  :-)

Unfortunately, wearing their PJs seems to make the kiddos a bit more bonkers than usual.  I left school ready for a nap and nap is what I did.

Now that I am up, I am determined to be productive for the next few hours before I crawl back under the covers again.

This week was a busy, but relatively boring one at school.  I was doing the DRA every chance I got and spent a lot of time teaching and reteaching how to make 10 to add.

As a result, I do not have any exciting school-related, 5 for Friday items to share.  However, I am going to bring some international flavor to 5 for Friday by sharing some of the most impactful blog posts from the Compassion bloggers.

This past week, several Compassion bloggers headed to Uganda to visit children whose live in the darkness of poverty, yet are wrapped in light because of the difference sponsorship has made for them.  Throughout the week, they shared their experiences in words that clamped a fist on my heart.

What are your nightmares made of?  Monsters?  Dark alleys?  Falling from the sky?

Whatever they consist of I'm sure they leave your heart racing and your palms sweaty.

But then, you roll over.  You take a few deep breaths.  You fall back asleep.  All is well again.

For the children living in the slums of Uganda, there is no falling back asleep.  The nightmare is when they are awake.  It is their lives.

Yet, as Brianne McKoy shares, Compassion is a hand that reaches down into the nightmare.  It is this hand of hope that allows these children to sing in the midst of a nightmare.


Shaun Groves' post was a hard one to read.  As a passionate Compassion sponsor, I would love to believe that the programs always work.  That lives are always changed for the better.  That children and parents never turn back to the darkness.  

As a realist though, I cannot deny that nothing is one hundred percent successful.  Compassion does not always work.  Some people stay trapped in the vices that poverty cultivates.

However, as Shaun says, Compassion gives children choices.  Yes, they may chose the wrong way, but they have the power to choose.  They have options.  They have a say.


Just reading about the daily life of Colline and seeing her radiant smile touched my heart.  I am sure it will touch yours as well.  Be sure to read Emily's post.

Grace and the Lord’s Resistance Army

Remember the Kony video? Whether or not that was legit at the time does not matter anymore. What matters is that the LRA has destroyed the lives of thousands of children in Uganda including Grace. Compassion International is helping to rebuild these lives one at a time. 

"One child connected to one church through one sponsor. 

It starts with one."

Read Grace's story as written by Brianne.  Warning: You might need some tissues.

The Worst Mistake You Don't Know You're Making
Ugandan family

In this post, Jeff Goins tells the story of the beautiful family pictured above.  You will never believe what the mother has been through.  He also talks about the power of words.

As teachers, we ought to know better than anyone the power of the things we say and write.  We teach children that words have power.  Words can tear someone down, rip away dignity, and destroy dreams. Or they can express ideas, solve problems, and give encouragement.

Compassion sponsors have the opportunity to use their words to give hope to children living in poverty.  Though I always knew that, I never believed it so deeply until I read Jeff's post.  Please take the time to read it and see what a difference you can make.


Whew.  I know that was a lot.  Probably more than some of you would like to handle.

But I ask you this...should these kids have to handle what they have been through?

I certainly don't think so.  I'm sure you agree.

Since this was a heavy post, I'll end it with some fabulous news.  So far, 205 children have been sponsored during blog week!!!

Still, many others in Uganda are still waiting to be given a be given hope.  Children like...

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Saturday Sweets and Sparking Motivation with Inferences

Happy Saturday!

How cold is it where you are?  

It's a balmy 25 degrees here in New Jersey.  :-)  Warmer than the single digits we've had, but definitely no heat wave.

To be honest, I don't really mind the cold and snow.  I actually appreciate that winter is acting like winter.  Snow is so beautiful and fun.  Don't get me wrong though, I do not wish for eternal winter like in Narnia.  I will be tired of winter by next month and will celebrate the coming of spring just as much as everyone else.

Anyways, since I didn't quite have 5 things to share for my Friday, I decided to share about one topic for two Saturday linkys: Saturday Sweets with Mary and Sparking Student Motivation with Joanne.

The best part of this week for both my students and me was working on inferring.  There are so many great resources out there to teach and practice making inferences, so I thought I would share some of the great ones I used.

First of all, I explained inferring using this cute, free poster from Corinna at O "FISH" ally a First Grader.

To make the concept of putting together schema and text clues more concrete, I teach my students a hand motion.  In one hand, they pretend to hold everything they know about the topic/story.  In the other, they hold the clues from the book.  When they put their hands together they make an inference. 

After introducing the concept, the real fun began using this AWESOME pack from Babbling Abby.

This pack is exactly what it's name states.  It is a hands-on investigation where students make inferences about what a boy named Tim did on a snow day.  The pack included posters for practicing inferring, instructions for how to put together Case Files of evidence, graphic organizers to record inferences, follow up activities etc.  

My kids had a blast looking through the Case Files to figure out what Tim did all day.  They were so eager to share their inferences and were amazed when different pieces of evidence fit together.  For example, on group found a box of blueberries and the other found a recipe for blueberry muffins.  Lightbulb!

I wish you could see the pictures of my kids digging through their case files, but my iPad had to stay at school to get updated and the pictures stayed with it.  

Still, here are some of the results of our inferring.

This activity was so motivating for my students because it was hands-on and connected to real-life.  I always find that my students are the most engaged when they are actively involved and know that what they are learning is truly useful and relevant.

Before I go, I must tell you that the Compassion Bloggers are celebrating their five year anniversary!  To commemorate this occasion, several bloggers are heading to Uganda for 5 days.  These bloggers will spend time visiting and building relationships with children at two different Compassion centers.  They will get to see first hand how Compassion is releasing children from poverty.  From Uganda they will be writing to share their experiences.  

If you are interested in following the Compassion Bloggers in Uganda, check out the link below.  

Follow the Compassion Bloggers in Uganda

Also, they have set a lofty goal of getting 400 children sponsored during their trip.  That's definitely a God-size goal.  

Can you help meet that goal?  Can you help 400 children find hope by breaking the chains of poverty that ensnare them?

Sponsorship is only $38 per month and it provides for a child's physical, emotional, mental, social, educational, and spiritual needs. 

To sponsor a child today, click the link below and/or e-mail me at  I would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

Follow the Compassion Bloggers in Uganda

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Day in the Life and My Blog Makeover!!

Remember I told you yesterday that a change was coming?

Do you notice anything different?

Anything at all...

Haha.  Just kidding.  Of course you do (unless you're a first time reader).

This BEAUTIFUL new blog design is courtesy of Megan over at A Bird in the Hand Blog Designs.

A Bird in Hand Designs

She has a super affordable Build Your Own Blog option that allowed me to choose my favorite colors, patterns, fonts etc. without breaking the budget.  The process took only a few days.  It actually took me longer to decide what I wanted than for her to design and install.

Megan was so sweet throughout the process and I absolutely love the result.  Bright, bold, and colorful is so my personality.  I cannot thank Megan enough and I highly recommend working with her if you need a re-design.

Now, rather than lesson planning, I am procrastinating by joining Amelia's A Day Our Way linky.  Here's my daily schedule.

Daily Oral Language- I use Evan Moor's First Grade Daily Oral Language pages.  They are short and sweet, yet cover a lot of different skills.

Morning Meeting/Share: This time includes the reading of the morning message, calendar routines, and share time.  Each student is assigned a day to share.  On that day, they may tell a story and/or bring in an item to share with the class. 

Math: My district uses Math in Focus, which is a Singapore Math curriculum.  I differentiate using three math groups.  After the mini lesson, students do Math with Self, Math with Someone, and Math with Teacher.  I promise to post more about those later.

Reading: I do a combination of a workshop model and the Daily 5.  On new learning days, I do workshop, but on guided reading group days, the students rotate through the Daily 5 centers.

Fundations: During Fundations, students learn and practice sounds, words, and sentences on their dry erase boards. 

Writing: My favorite time of the day!  When my students listen that is.  It's near the end of the day, so sometimes I'm losing them by this point.  Still, writing workshop is a highlight for me and for quite a few of my kids.

Social Studies/Science: By this time, my kids have been minds-on in the classroom for almost 3 hours, so it's time for some rousing discussion and exciting experiments.

So, that's my day.  What's your schedule?  Link up with Amelia to share.

One more thing.  Last, but certainly not least, there is an exciting opportunity coming up for all Compassion Sponsors.  On January 27, Compassion is offering a free webinar to share ways to cultivate a relationship with your Compassion children through letter writing.  As a sponsor, I know that it is often difficult to think of what to write to my kids, so I am really looking forward to this session.  

If you are interested in "attending" the webinar, click below to register.  Spaces are limited.

That's all for now.  Hope you like the new look.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Tried it Tuesday: Game Shows and Quinoa

Do those things go together?  Maybe if you're watching GSN (Game Show Network) while eating dinner, but don't worry, that is not the topic of this post.  It's a day late, but I'm still taking the time to link up with Holly for Tried it Tuesday with one school-related idea and several recipes.

To start off, I'll share the school-related idea.  Let's be honest.  Teaching phonics and grammar can be quite dull.  Yes, word work has done wonders to make practicing words more engaging and even enjoyable.  But what about the direct instruction times? 

To spice things up in my room, I like to start or end with a game.  Here are two that my firsties have by loving.  I know they aren't my original creations, but perhaps they will inspire someone.

Grammar Game Show
Ashley® Desk Call Bell
This game is pretty straightforward.  I use typical office-style bell.  The kids come up two at a time to face off.  They start with their hands behind their backs and wait for me to ask a question.  I ask a variety of questions about sentences, parts of speech etc.  Once I finish saying the question, the first kid to hit the bell gets to answer.  If they are correct, they win the satisfaction of answering correctly.  If they are incorrect, the other student gets a chance to steal.  As long as I keep things upbeat using my crazy game show voice, the kiddos are able to stay positive even if they don't "win."  Plus, I always ask for plenty of audience participation.  

Since this game is such a hit, I plan to use it in other subject areas too.

Sight Word I Spy

For this game, the kids use their white boards and the word wall to respond to my prompts.  I will say things like "I'm looking for sight words with digraphs," "Linking verbs," or "Long sight words with short ones inside."  Examples for the last one could be the-they, any-many etc.  Super engaging and challenging.

Now, on to the recipes.  My food discovery of the new year is...QUINOA!!  Until recently, I had heard a lot about this super food, but hadn't dared cook with it.  I thought it was too "fancy" to bother with.  Well, after a trip to Trader Joe's, I decided to give it a shot.  The result: some of the tastiest recipes I've had in a long time.  They do take a bit of work, but nothing too complicated.  All of them have great flavor and happen to be vegetarian or vegan.  Here are the pins, so you can enjoy too.

Sweet Potato Quinoa Chili From Lyss in the Kitchen
I was skeptical about this flavor combination, but it was so good.  Definitely not a spicy chili, but very flavorful and full of different textures.

Black Bean-Quinoa Burgers from Vegetarian Times
Black Bean Quinoa Burgers from Vegetarian Times

From Amanda's Apron

So, that's what I've been eating lately.  Anyone got any great quinoa recipes to share?

Also, before I go, be forewarned.  I change is coming to this blog.  A very good change.   Stay tuned.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Sore 5 for Friday

I write for you today feeling very sore.  My entire body took a beating yesterday at the new Boot Camp class I just started going to.  Class started at 5:45 a.m.  Yes, I dragged myself out of bed that early.

Though my every muscle screamed in protest as I pushed myself to new levels, it was so worth it.  My goal with joining the gym was to push myself beyond my limits and to vary my workouts.  So far, so good.

That was just one "highlight" from my week.  I'm joining Doodlebugs to share some others for 5 for Friday.

Pilot Visit

One of my girl's has a dad who is a pilot.  He came to talk about his job on Wednesday.  The kids went crazy.  They loved looking at pictures of the cockpit controls etc.  Also, each kid got to take home a picture of a 747, a pencil, and their own pilot wings.

Many Moment Stories

We finally reached the point where my writers could begin writing many moment stories instead of being stuck in small moments.  Not that small moments are bad, but we spend months on them and the kids get a bit bored.  Plus, I don't always think it is very easy for kids to focus on one moment no matter how much we practice and plan.  Now, it's time for them to write several moments together, while hopefully still trying out the author's craft techniques they've been learning.

Main Idea

Students began to pick out the main idea and supporting details in stories.  They used Trisha C.'s free thinking maps when practicing during read to someone.  Thanks Tricia!


Once my kiddos had some practice with main idea and details, we moved on to questioning.  I always like teaching students to ask and answer questions cause it really gives me a window into their thinking.  This year, most of my students are already asking thick questions that are based on the book and they are thinking about the answers.  Today when I asked students where they found the answers, they were already telling me, "I found it in the book," or "I thought really hard in my brain."  This was before I even taught/modeled this and showed the anchor chart.  I was impressed.

This year, I used the book, Brave Irene, to during my mini-lesson.  It was a favorite from my childhood and provides ample opportunities for questioning.

Sight Word Bingo

Since our career presenter for today had to cancel last minute, we spent the last bit of school playing Sight Word Bingo.  Of course, my kiddos were ecstatic.  

That was my week.  How was yours?  What books do you use to teach questioning?

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

January 2014 Currently

Happy 2014!


Audrey Assad's music is creative and relaxing and her lyrics are so well thought out.  Her songs gently remind me of the promises I need to hold on to.


2014!  An even numbered year (I hate odd numbers) full of so much potential!


After convincing myself that I am in shape enough to handle a Body Boot Camp class, I find that my leg strength is not what I thought it was.  My quads are KILLING me.  I have rarely been this sore.  After trying the typical ice and heat approaches, I did a little research and discovered that some people use rolling pins to massage their sore muscles.  Given the fact that I was desperate, I decided to give the method a try.  At first it hurt like crazy, but then the knots gradually began to spread out and now my thighs finally feel better.  If/when you get sore during your New Year's resolution workouts, you should seriously try the rolling pin method!


The story behind why I tried the Boot Camp class in the first place is that I decided it was time to bite the bullet and pay for a gym membership.  Now, I know that joining a gym on January 1st is about as cliche as it gets, but I had been considering this option for awhile.  I like working out and staying in shape, but my options have been limited since I live in a third floor studio apartment.  As much as I'd like to do videos workouts, I don't think my downstairs neighbors would appreciate that and though they've served me well, my 12 pound weights are just no longer enough.  Plus, my short running career was cut even shorter when I hurt my knee and the weather turned cold.

The Boot Camp workout in itself was proof that though I am in decent shape, I could and should push myself so much harder.  I look forward to attending that class regularly and trying out some others like Zumba, spinning, and Yoga in addition to intensifying my own free weight and cardio workouts.   As you can probably tell, I am excited to try everything!


Tomorrow's the first day back after break.  I still haven't fully processed that.  Though it will be good to see my kiddos and my colleagues, it's going to take awhile to get back into the routine of school.


Every Christmas Eve my family and my grandparents attend Christmas Eve service at church.  This year we went to two services, one at my parent's church and one at my grandparent's.  Afterwards we always get together to enjoy tasty Christmas cookies and to reminisce about Christmas past. 

Well, that's my Currently.  To everyone who goes back tomorrow, have a great first day back!  To you lucky ducks who don't go back til Monday, enjoy the rest of your break!